Paying it Forward and My Last Walmart Haul

me as penny pingletonYesterday, I returned to Pennsylvania after staying with my aunt for nearly a week in Central New York. I returned to my hometown area to perform in my dance recitals I spent the last 8 months practicing for before we moved. This year’s recital theme was “Paying it Forward,” and most of the dances were to songs about making a difference and self-empowerment. My Jazz class danced to Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT, and my Tap class did a medley from Hairspray. I dressed as Penny Pingleton for Tap, as is pictured on the left.

Saturday, I had two recitals: a matinee and an evening show. After the matinee show, my aunt met me for lunch. Then we killed time walking around WalMart for an hour before I had to get back for the evening show. I knew this WalMart well – I grocery shopped there every week for the last 3 years. Since Target is now closer to me and easier to get to than Walmart here in PA (and I like Target better), this time in Walmart was most likely my last time for quite awhile.

link pixel pal and lace necklace

While walking around, I picked up two items, a metal, black lace necklace and a Pixel Pal Link. I have to say that this pair probably sums me up better than anything. Black lace is one of my favorite things ever. When I finally post photos of my wedding, you’ll understand. And obviously, not only am I Zelda fan, but I’m also a pixel art fan.

So here’s the nitty gritty of the story. My aunt and I went into different checkout lines. I finished first and went to find her. She was waiting in line behind a young couple, and I noticed her cashier. I groaned. She’s an older woman, late 50s-early 60s, and I always avoided her because snails moved faster than she did.

As I waited to join my aunt, I watched the couple in front of her. They had alcohol on the belt, and only one of had ID. The cashier refused to sell it to them. If that sounds weird, it’s not in NY State. The couple gave the poor woman a hard time about refusing the sale, and her shy demeanor was immediately apparent. My aunt stepped in and told the couple that the cashier could lose her job if she made that sale. They gave up and left.

Now my aunt was at the register and I finally joined her. The cashier looked at me and said to her “Is that your daughter? She looks just like you.” We told her that I was her niece, and the reason we looked alike is that my mom is her twin sister. She asked us about twins in our family, and I told her that it runs in our family since my grandmother was also a twin and so am I.

As the cashier handed my aunt her receipt, she says “It’s nice you’re so close with your family, since I don’t have anyone anymore.” I never know how to respond to these types of statements. It broke my heart, but I contemplated pretending I didn’t hear her. However, my aunt had no trouble. She stopped, turned to face her, and said “I’ll adopt you. Every time I’m here, I’ll come through your line and say hello.” She gave her one last bright smile and we left.

As we headed to the car, I told my aunt how I envied her ability to talk so casually with people. She said it gets easier as you get older. Then she contemplated going back to find out when she got off work so she could invite her to my recital. She settled on asking her out for a coffee next time, since we were running late.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, a woman waved us down. I recognized her as the customer in line behind my aunt.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But I just wanted to let you know I heard what you said to that cashier. Did you know she cried happy tears after you left?”

Just to see the impact of a few kind words really made me feel the weight of what we danced for that day. I hope to someday be as unafraid as my aunt.


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